April 2021 Cooperative Connections

Page 1

West River Electric April 2021 Vol. 21 No. 12

Deep freeze challenges power grid

Pages 8-9

The latest on EVs in SD Pages 12-13

Co-ops respond as extreme winter weather brings up concerns over power supply and demand


Rolling Blackouts: What Happened in February I was sitting at my desk early the morning of February 16 looking through my email when my cellphone rang at 6:30 a.m. It was my brother who lives north of Rapid City. He said, “my power is out.” I said, “I do not see any others right now but let me look on our outage management system.” I glanced at my email and it was exploding with outage notifications. I told him it looked like a large outage. About that time our operations manager texted me in some not so nice words that the breaker had been opened at the Elk Vale tap which feeds our Weston Heights sub. These outages were all a part of the rolling blackouts that occurred in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) footprint that morning. We had about 3,000 members without power for about 50 minutes. I learned more about emergency energy alerts than I ever wanted to know. Here is a brief rundown.

Dick Johnson dick.johnson@westriver.coop

The board and employees try to plan and create rate options that fit your lifestyle.

SPP had notified our main transmission supplier, Western Area Power Association (WAPA) that there may need to be a period of rolling blackouts during peak times Monday through Wednesday, Feb. 15-17. Basically, demand was exceeding supply. Why is that? Besides the cold weather through the entire midsection of the country, natural gas was in short supply due to heating of homes and businesses. Natural gas is used as a generation source especially if renewables are not able to operate. Wind turbines will not run if the weather is too severe. The gas was to back it up; gas was not available. If it was, the price was astronomical. Many of the turbines and gas generation froze up as well south of here compounding the problem. Those generators are not used to minus 20-degree weather like we have up here. They are made for hot weather operation. SPP requires each power supplier to have a certain reserve capacity available for situations like this. However, that reserve was short because natural gas was not available. When the peak time occurred that Tuesday morning, the reliability coordinator told WAPA they had to shut off 180 mw of load immediately with no notice. A second call was made 15 minutes later to dump another 180 mw. That is when our number was drawn! If they had not done the blackouts, it could have caused catastrophic damage as it would cascade all the way back to the generation source. It could then take hours, days, and even weeks to get the grid back to normal. I don’t think any of us want that! The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has already opened a docket on the matter. There will be many meetings on what happened and why in SPP’s 80-year history they had to do rolling blackouts for the first time ever. One could blame renewables, but they were only a part of the puzzle. As I have said in several social media posts, I am hopeful this energy crisis will make the country have an honest, open discussion on energy policy, the need for a balanced energy portfolio which will include the need to build necessary electric and gas infrastructure to move electric and oil/gas to points where it is needed. As a side note, Texas had their own issues. They are on an isolated grid and have nothing to do with SPP. Thanks to all our members but especially the Weston Heights substation members for their patience and understanding.


Cooperative Connections | April 2021


(USPS No. 675-840)

Our Mission: We are safety conscious, community oriented, and the trusted energy expert for our member owners. Our Vision: We will achieve an ACSI score of 90 by 2024. Our Values: 1. Safety 2. Accountability 3. Integrity 4. Innovation 5. Commitment to Community This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Board President: Andy Moon Board of Directors Stan Anders – Vice President Jamie Lewis – Secretary Larry Eisenbraun – Treasurer Jerry Hammerquist Howard Knuppe Marcia Arneson Chuck Sloan Sue Peters CEO and General Manager: Dick Johnson – dick.johnson@westriver.coop Editor Robert Raker – robert.raker@westriver.coop WEST RIVER ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE CONNECTIONS is the monthly publication for the members of West River Electric Association. Members subscribe to Cooperative Connections as part of their electric cooperative membership for $6 a year. West River Electric Cooperative Connections purpose is to provide reliable, helpful information to electric cooperative members on matters pertaining to rural electrification and better living. Nonmember subscriptions are available for $12 per year. Periodicals Postage paid at Wall, S.D., and at additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to West River Electric Cooperative Connections, PO Box 412 , Wall, SD 57790-0412. Other correspondence to: West River Electric Cooperative Connections, PO Box 3486, Rapid City, SD 57709; telephone (605)393-1500, Exts. 6519, 6517, 6531 or 6522; fax (605)3930275; e-mail veronica.kusser@westriver.coop.

Did you change your phone number or email? It is important to keep your information updated with West River Electric. We would like to keep you updated on planned outages or other important information that may affect your service. Contact us at 279-2135 or 393-1500 to make changes to your information.

Locate Your Account Number If you locate your account number anywhere in this issue of West River Electric’s Cooperative Connections, you will be a winner. There will be five account numbers placed randomly throughout the publication. If you spot your account number and notify our office before the 10th of the next month, you will receive a $10 credit on your next bill.

West River Electric Office Hours Rapid City Office

Wall Office

3250 E Hwy 44, Rapid City, SD Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. 605-393-1500

1200 W 4th Ave, Wall, SD Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m 605-279-2135

A night depository is available at both offices for your convenience. Office hours are subject to change in response to COVID-19.

Service and Billing Questions? Contact 605-279-2135 or 605-393-1500 during office hours. E-mail us at info@westriver.coop for questions on your account.

Outage or Emergency? Contact 605-279-2135 or 605-393-1500 in the event of an outage or other emergency. Our calls are answered 24/7.

April 2021 | Cooperative Connections



Home Improvements Don’t Have to be Expensive You don’t have to replace your air conditioner with a high-efficiency system or make other major improvements to reduce energy consumption. There are low-cost efficiencies anyone can implement to help reduce energy bills. Mind the thermostat. You might be able to trim your energy bill by carefully managing the temperature in your home. Consider setting your thermostat to 78 degrees when you’re running the air conditioner. If that’s not cool enough, use fans to help circulate the air to help you feel cooler. Go programmable. If you don’t always remember to adjust your thermostat manually, you could benefit from a programmable model. In the right situation and set correctly, programmable thermostats can save your household $150 a year. Some models can be managed from your smartphone or other devices. Stop air leaks. Small gaps around windows, doors, wiring and plumbing penetrations can be major sources of energy loss. This problem can be alleviated with a little weatherstripping and caulk. A $10 door draft stopper (also known as a “door snake”) is a simple way to block gaps underneath exterior doors. Sealing air leaks around your home could shave up to one-fifth off your heating and cooling bills. Manage your windows and window coverings. Your windows may be letting heat out during the winter and letting heat in during the summer. Window coverings like medium or heavyweight curtains and thermal blinds can help. During the summer, keep window coverings closed to block the sun and keep it from heating conditioned indoor air. On cooler spring days, turn off your air conditioner, open the windows and enjoy the breeze - and lower electricity bills. Look for energy wasters. There are small steps you can take every day to reduce your energy use. Water heaters should be kept at the warm setting (120 degrees). Wash dishes and clothes on the most economical settings that will do the job, and always wash full loads. Use the microwave instead of the oven when possible. And unplug phone chargers, electronics and small appliances when not in use.


Cooperative Connections | April 2021

A Note of Appreciation for the Service Co-ops Provide By Mark Peacock, Dupree Most of us wake up each day with an agenda and a schedule that ensures we do things in pretty much the same way from the moment we open our eyes to the moment we arrive at wherever it is we spend our day working. But on those rare occasions when I walk through our warm home and turn on the bathroom light, which in our home has an overhead radiant heat lamp, and start the shower, which releases hot water from the water heater nestled in the basement, I sometimes take a brief pause in my routine. I pause to feel the heat of the water wash over me…if only for a minute or so, to enjoy and appreciate what a wonderful experience having a hot shower in a well-warmed, well-lit bathroom in a very comfortable home represents. It means I live in a country and in a state and in a county that has invested in the infrastructure and made a commitment to allowing normal, everyday Americans the opportunity to enjoy such a treat in the middle of a South Dakota winter. And I smile, because we may not get all we want in life, but we may, for a brief moment, feel all the warmth it takes to start off the day in a positive way. Thank you and your energy partners for making my day and the days of thousands of others begin just a little better, a little bit warmer, a little bit brighter, and a whole lot more optimistic.


Stay Indoors During a Storm Celeste Meyer, 6 years old Celeste is the daughter of Brice and Sarah Meyer. She is a resident of Trent and a member of Sioux Valley Electric. Kids, send your drawing with an electrical safety tip to your local electric cooperative (address found on Page 3). If your poster is published, you’ll receive a prize. All entries must include your name, age, mailing address and the names of your parents. Colored drawings are encouraged.


Slushes, Punches, Lattes Fruit Slush

Spiced Cocoa Mix

1 6-oz. can orange juice concentrate

1/3 cup halved maraschino cherries with juice

1 6-oz. can lemonade concentrate

2 firm bananas, sliced

3 or 4 juice cans water

2 10-oz. boxes frozen strawberries, thawed

2 20-oz. cans crushed pineapple with juice Stir all ingredients together and freeze in 9 x 13 inch pan or ice cream bucket. Remove from freezer a few minutes before serving. To serve, put scoop of slush in glass and fill glass with 7-Up or Squirt. Mary Jessen, Holabird


2 12-oz. cans of orange juice 1 46-oz. can of pineapple concentrate juice 1 12-oz. can of lemonade Blend bananas will all ingredients above. Bring to boil 6 cups water and 3 cups sugar. Cool. Combine banana mixture with sugar water. Freeze. At the time of serving, mixture should be slushy. Add two 2-liter bottles of Sprite or Fresca to the banana/water mixture and serve. Julie Hummel, Hawarden, IA

Seasonal Punch 12-oz. can frozen orange juice 12-oz. can Frozen Lemonade 4 pkgs. Koolade, any flavor

4 quarts water 3-3/4 cups sugar 2 Liters 7-Up (or Diet 7-Up)

Mix orange juice, lemonade, Koolade, water and sugar, store in fridge to keep cold. Also refrigerate the 2 liters of 7-Up. Prior to serving - pour in the 2 liter of 7-Up and gently stir to mix. You can use any color Koolade, maybe green for Easter, red for 4th of July, Labor Day and Christmas, and orange for Halloween. Refreshing punch goes well with meals or anytime of day. Pam Conn, Sioux Falls

1 cup powdered sugar 2 cups nonfat dry milk powder

1/2 cup nondairy powdered creamer 3/4 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Sift powdered sugar and cocoa together. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. For each serving, use 1/3 cup mix and 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir. May add a teaspoon of coffee crystals, a dollop of whipped cream, or a teaspoon of liquid flavored coffee creamer. Elaine Rowett, Sturgis

Creamy Hot Chocolate

Banana Slush Punch 7-8 bananas

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup dry baking cocoa

7-1/2 cups water

14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1-1/2 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp salt Mix cocoa, milk, salt into a crock pot. Add water gradually, stirring into smooth. Cover and cook on high 2 hours, or low 4 hours. Stir in vanilla before serving. Melissa Roerig, Sioux Falls

Chocolate Latte 1/2 cup hot brewed coffee or 2 shots espresso

2 teaspoons cocoa nibs

1 Premier Protein 30g High Protein Chocolate Shake In large 14-16-oz. mug, prepare espresso or coffee. Pour chocolate shake on top to combine. Top with cocoa nibs. www.premierprotein.com

Please send your favorite casserole recipes to your local electric cooperative (address found on Page 3). Each recipe printed will be entered into a drawing for a prize in December 2021. All entries must include your name, mailing address, telephone number and cooperative name. April 2021 | Cooperative Connections


COMMUNITY Midwestern Mechanical’s growth led them to build a new location that could better serve their needs.

Midwestern Mechanical’s Largest Jobs Include Workforce Development Robert Raker robert.raker@westriver.coop Midwestern Mechanical Inc. built a beautiful building out by exit 61. They relocated from their location out by Deadwood Avenue. Because of the growth in the region, they needed more space. With locations in Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Sioux City and Spencer, Iowa, Midwestern Mechanical can take on any size jobs. They handle everything – from plumbing to heating and air conditioning to fire protection. With roughly 320 total employees, they can pool resources at a moment's notice to tackle the area's biggest jobs. In 2010, Brett Kaltvedt, vice president, moved to the beautiful Black Hills to expand Midwestern Mechanical to the Rapid City market. They have quickly realized the dire need in this area for a company this size. For example, the Civic Center job takes anywhere from 35-40 full-time plumbers. Only a company that can pull from other shops and shift employees will meet that type of need. Brett's proud to say that they are all one big team. They can move guys around from different departments to always provide work. 6

Cooperative Connections | April 2021

"We are hiring human beings, team players, and if they're willing to work, we will keep them busy," said Brett. They offer careers, not jobs.

Midwestern Mechanical is invested in workforce development.

COMMUNITY, CONT. The company has plenty of space in the new location.

City School district and Western Dakota Tech. "Midwestern Mechanical's had an internal apprentice program for roughly seven years; we offer an education while they are working," said Brett. They will also participate in the Build Dakota Scholarship, which gives students entering South Dakota tech schools an opportunity to plan a foundation for their future. They will pay for their school if they agree to work for them, so they will acquire no student debt and a set of skills in high demand. Workforce development is a big job, but that is what Midwestern Mechanical does.

Brett spends a good deal of time addressing workforce development. They need good quality workers that are looking for a career. So, he gets involved in all different levels, from talking to high school age to providing guidance and help to Western Dakota Tech as an advisory member. They will even offer company resources to help the school and industry. He said, "there is a labor shortage for this industry as a whole, and we're going to get plugged into the community and be part of the solution." Brett keeps his fingers on the pulse of Elevate Rapid City, the Rapid

Midwestern Mechanical's shop is very large, and roughly half is allocated to prefabricating one job, the Civic Center. Fabricating such a large job would not have been available in their old location, and they would have needed to rely on Sioux Falls for this part. Couple the residential and commercial works, and you can easily see why they need such a large shop and office. They have not completely built out the second floor yet, so they have room to grow. However, they have some of the second floor carved out for training, but they anticipate making some available to lease in the future. When you look at the building and the work Brett puts into workforce development, it's obvious they know the importance of planning for the future. The Black Hills region is booming, and Midwestern Mechanical is an employer that offers great careers and provides a facility and work environment that is second to none. West River Electric is grateful to provide electric service to such a place.

Midwestern Mechanical’s impressive facility along with its focus on career-building makes it a great place to work. April 2021 | Cooperative Connections



A peek inside the Southwest Power Pool control room shows system operators working to make sure power supply always matches demand across 14 states on the grid. Photo provided by SPP.

AN ENERGY EMERGENCY Why Did February Outages Happen and Could They Happen Again? Billy Gibson billy.gibson@sdrea.coop The national power grid has been hailed as one of the greatest and most complex engineering feats ever achieved. Every second of every day it works to keep electricity flowing freely to homes, schools, farms, hospitals and businesses in every region of the country. But while it stands as one of mankind’s most marvelous inventions, sometimes it’s simply no match for Mother Nature. This electric superhighway was put to the test in mid-February when a bone-chilling air mass swept through large swaths of the country and caused a spike in the demand for power. As the temperatures dropped, millions of Americans attempted to stave off the frigid air by reaching for electric blankets, plugging in space heaters and nudging their thermostats up a few notches. With so many people clamoring to stay warm, the sudden spike in demand for power caused the gatekeepers of the grid to reach their option of last resort: ordering temporary disruptions in service to maintain the delicate balance between demand and supply that’s required to keep the network from completely melting down. The result was several waves of controlled and coordinated rolling blackouts often spanning one hour and isolated incidents of up to three hours for some consumers. The service interruptions impacted nearly one-third of the nation. Industry officials explain that this response to skyrocketing demand was necessary to keep the grid from sustaining extensive damage and causing a repeat of the historic event that occurred in the summer of 2003. The Northeast Blackout extended across the eastern seaboard, through parts of the Midwest and into southern Canada and left approximately 50 million in the dark. “Controlled outages are necessary to prevent widespread damage to the grid, which could cause a cascade of outages that could potentially be far more devastating,” explained Barbara Sugg, CEO of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). “There’s no doubt this would have been a much more significant event if our individual customers and businesses and industries had not all pulled together to reduce the load.” 8

Cooperative Connections | April 2021

Air Traffic Controllers for the Grid Sugg describes her organization as an “air traffic controller” for the grid. In fact, the SPP is what’s known in the electric utility industry as a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO). It’s one of the four quasi-government entities responsible for maintaining the critical balance between supply and demand along the nation’s power grid. While RTOs don’t create or generate power, they are charged under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with the task of making sure the power produced by other utilities flows smoothly across the grid and gets to the places where consumers need it, when they need it. SPP is the power transmission overseer for 14 states - including South Dakota - and more than 17 million people in the midsection of the U.S. from North Dakota to the Texas Panhandle. Electric co-ops in South Dakota are also part of the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), a federal agency that markets power produced from hydroelectric dams in the Upper Midwest. It operates the larger bulk transmission facilities in 15 central and western states in its geographical footprint. Most of the time the high-voltage transmission process operates without a hitch, and electric generation can be moved across the grid when there is high demand in one area and excess generation in another. But when foul weather comes into the picture grid operators focus on activating their emergency response plans. Those plans typically include communicating with generators to coordinate arrangements for assuring that an ample supply of power will be available to meet projected demand when the inclement weather strikes. Lanny Nickell, operations manager for SPP, points out that while arrangements were in place to face the February cold snap, the winter blast turned out to be an unprecedented event for the organization. As the temperatures dropped, SPP initiated the process of contacting power generators and transmitters to warn that the looming storm may cause the system to be severely strained. Six days later, SPP officials went

ENERGY EMERGENCY through a series of three Energy Emergency Alert levels and eventually declared a Level 3 emergency, which required “controlled interruptions of service,” or rolling blackouts. It was the first time in the SPP’s 80 years that a Level 3 emergency was declared. “Despite our plans, the severe weather coupled with a limited fuel supply hampered our ability to balance our supply with the demand from end-use consumers,” Nickell said. “So, first we had to go out and ask for a voluntary reduction in energy use. Then, we held off as long as we could to make the call to interrupt service in a controlled fashion, but it was necessary to prevent overloading the system and causing an even bigger problem and much longer outages.” Nickell explained that without an affordable and viable means of storing high-voltage electricity for future use, power is created in one location and consumed in another location in real time. The balance must be maintained even though both supply and consumption change on a second-by-second basis. “Once we observe an imbalance, we have to react within seconds to reduce the demand,” Nickell said. “This is why it’s very difficult for us to announce well beforehand when these things will happen because they happen at the speed of light.” A Smorgasbord of Fuel Sources Interruptions in service are more than minor inconveniences for many co-op members, especially when severe weather conditions are in play. The February storm and the ensuing service outages triggered wide-ranging discussions about the push toward renewable resources to generate electricity. Supporters of fossil fuels point out that decades-long efforts to curb coal and natural gas played a part in restricting the kinds of available resources that could have prevented widespread outages. Coal has long been a reliable source of “baseload power” requirements, or the amount of power necessary to provide an adequate supply to meet basic needs without interruption. It’s utilized largely because it can be more easily controlled compared to intermittent sources. Advocates emphasize that wind turbines were frozen in place and solar panels were buried in snow and limited by scarce sunlight during this event. Renewable fuel source proponents echoed SPP officials in noting that the February storm was an historic occurrence. They contend that renewable power promotes a cleaner environment, decreases energy reliance on other countries, adds jobs to the economy and that innovations in the emerging industry

could be effective in responding to any future storms. Presently, roughly 25 percent of South Dakota’s overall energy supply comes from wind turbines. For electric co-ops, that figure is closer to 20 percent. Proponents of wind also point to issues with natural gas delivery and the inability of some fossil fuel plants to produce electricity through the storm. A combination of high demand, lower-thannormal wind resources and natural gas delivery problems all met at the same time to contribute to the energy emergency. As for those members of RTOs who receive the call to actually implement controlled outages - particularly transmission and distribution cooperatives - there are very few options available when demand begins to significantly outpace supply on the grid. Chris Studer is chief member and public relations officer for East River Electric, a co-op that provides transmission and substation services for distribution entities in South Dakota and Minnesota. He said the cooperative’s hands are essentially tied when SPP reaches the point of calling for rolling outages. “The utilities involved in the SPP are required to carry a surplus of generation resources throughout the year over and above their historic peak demand so they are prepared for extreme circumstances. However, when wind resources and other generation are constrained, there is a limited amount of other generation available to serve the region’s recent record demand for electricity,” he said. Distribution co-ops find they have even less control when RTOs and power marketing agencies restrict the flow of power, but they still find ways to mitigate the situation. Officials at West River Electric based in Wall, implemented

“Once we observe an imbalance, we have to react within seconds to reduce the demand. This is why it’s very difficult for us to announce well beforehand when these things will happen because they happen at the speed of light.” - Lanny Nickell, SPP the co-op’s load management program after receiving the request for reduced demand hoping it would be enough. But it was not, and some of the co-op’s members were subject to a 50-minute unplanned blackout. CEO Dick Johnson said he had never experienced a similar event in his 27 years in the industry. He added that he hopes the emergency situation prompts discussions centered around policy proposals that will prevent future emergencies. “I think we should have a national conversation that includes large new baseload generation, whether that be hydroelectric, nuclear or carbon capture on coal plants. We must also have a conversation about building necessary electric and gas transmission infrastructure to allow us to get electricity and gas to the places where it is needed when times like this happen. If not, I am afraid it will happen again in the future, only more frequently.”

April 2021 | Cooperative Connections



Trusted Energy Advisor: Remember To Call 811 Before You Dig As the weather warms and the idea of spring approaches, the lists of spring projects also start to generate. We want to remind you as you start to head outdoors to start up on landscape or other yard projects to call before you dig. This will help eliminate any risk of injury, possible fines or cost to repair any underground utility damages. Whether the project is perceived to be large or small, locates should always be called in. Some project examples are excavation around your foundation, footings for a new deck, putting up a fence, replacing the mailbox posts, or planting flowerbeds, shrubs or trees. Buried utilities are everywhere, and due to prior excavation, erosion or just improper installation in the first place, they may be just a couple of inches below the ground. Therefore, it is crucial to call before you dig.

Jared Stalley jared.stalley@westriver.coop

So before putting a shovel into the ground, call 811. This is the national callbefore-you-dig number; it is a free service and should be utilized a few days before you dig. This will give the locator or utilities ample time to make all the necessary markings. You need to make sure all utilities have responded before digging. In most cases, after all public utilities are located, you should be good to get to work. However, if there is any question or concern that there may be private utilities on the property, a private utility locator may be needed. These are all utilities that run past the meter on the property to security lights, out-buildings, etc. So, to reiterate, always call before you dig. If you have any questions, please ask the 811 representative or contact your local utility for guidance. Thanks, and stay safe, Jared Stalley Your Trusted Energy Advisor

Check out the website https://www.sdonecall.com/ for even more information before you start to dig.

Try to avoid digging on top of or within 18-24” on all sides of utility marks. 10

Cooperative Connections | April 2021


West River Electric Returns $583,422 to Area Schools West River Electric pays a kilowatt-hour tax on all kWhs sold through the cooperative. Under South Dakota law, a formula calculates the amount of tax from the kWhs sold. A house that uses 1000 kWhs per month pays $2.40 to the local school district where the energy was used. West River Electric’s wholesale power supplier, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, also pays the kWh tax on their portion of the member’s power bill. In 2020, West River Electric will return $583,422 to area schools that operate in our service area. • Pennington County schools received $479,908 • Meade County schools received $96,409 • Jackson County schools received $6,018 • Ziebach County schools received $550 • Oglala Lakota County schools received $360 • Haakon County schools received $177 April 2021 | Cooperative Connections



This electric vehicle owned by Sioux Valley Energy is used as a fleet vehicle for the cooperative but also serves to educate members about EV technology and performance.

Electric Vehicles in SD Electric Co-ops Working to Build Fast Charging Stations Billy Gibson billy.gibson@sdrea.coop

General Motors turned a lot of heads earlier this year when the auto industry titan announced its intention to phase out all gas and diesel engines by 2035. GM made sure its message was loud and clear by running ads during the Super Bowl. Not to be outdone, Ford CEO Jim Farley soon followed suit by announcing the company’s plans to invest $29 billion in the development of autonomous vehicles (AVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025. And against a backdrop of companies like Tesla and Workhorse seeing triple-digit stock gains, President Joe Biden rolled out plans to turn the entire 650,000-vehicle federal government fleet to all electric. With a solid upward trend in support of E-mobility and electric vehicles sweeping the globe, electric cooperatives throughout the region are doing their part to provide the power those vehicles will need to carry their passengers from Point A to Point B. According to Ben Pierson, manager of beneficial electrification at Sioux Valley 12

Energy, the state’s electric cooperatives are facing a chicken-and-egg proposition in deciding whether - and how much to invest in an industry that’s still in its early stages. Pierson has been involved in rallying support for the formation of a DC fast charging network that will make it easy for EV drivers to navigate across and throughout the state. The stations will be placed 75-100 miles apart but will have to be constructed before the demand is fully materialized. He has received interest from groups representing tourism, economic development, transportation and state government.

make up less than 1 percent of the total U.S. vehicle fleet while 10 percent of the vehicles sold in Europe last December were pure electric.

Pierson has been working with municipal and investor-owned utilities to build out the infrastructure, with an emphasis on making sure there are enough charging stations along I-90 to get travelers from one side of the state to the other with confidence. Stations will also be installed along the I-29 corridor in Brookings and Watertown in Phase 1, with plans to include a station in Vermillion as part of Phase 2. Pierson points out that “range anxiety” is a major obstacle for consumers and early adopters who are considering the purchase of an EV. Presently, EVs

“When industry giants like Ford and GM are making a commitment to electric vehicles, that’s a huge indicator that EVs are more than just a passing fad and are something we should invest in,” Pierson said. “But like any industry transformation, it can be a frightening proposition for people to experience a paradigm shift like this. With our members in mind, we’re committed to staying out ahead of the wave and doing what we can to make sure the power delivery infrastructure is in place when the other pieces and parts of the total picture emerge.”

Cooperative Connections | April 2021

A recent study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago indicated that EVs are driven about half the distance - an average of 5,300 miles a year - compared to conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. One conclusion taken from the study is that EV owners see those vehicles as complements to their transportation needs instead of a replacement for their conventional cars.


DC Fast Charging Infrastructure Plan

Utilities are in the process of conducting siting plans and ordering equipment needed to install the network of charging stations. In the state Legislature, lawmakers favored a $50 annual fee on electric vehicles which don’t contribute the gas tax revenue that goes toward construction and maintenance of road and highway infrastructure. Presently, there are roughly 400 EVs on South Dakota roadways. “We’re just tremendously excited to be a part of this project,” Pierson said. “Our goal is to help our members in any way we can and we want to be there on the ground floor as the industry continues to expand.” Collaborating with Pierson is Robert Raker, manager of public relations at West River Electric. They are working with utilities throughout South Dakota

and Minnesota to build out the DC fast charging infrastructure. The plan is to initially focus on major highways and interstates and then branch out from there. The way Raker sees it, getting involved in constructing a charging station network is a sound investment in the economic growth and development of cooperative communities. He said cooperatives are leading the way by purchasing EVs of their own as demonstration models for their members and also as part of the cooperative’s fleet. West River Electric’s Nissan Leaf is used for business purposes throughout the day and is quite the attraction at community events on the weekends. He noted that co-ops have a long history of innovation and progress. “Many co-ops are formulating plans to

migrate their light-duty service vehicles to EV,” Raker said. “Co-ops have always been at the tip of the innovation spear. We were the first to bring power to rural South Dakota and we made sure people had access to power in order to run their farms, homes and appliances…things that would make their lives easier while allowing their communities to prosper.” Part of West River’s overall EV strategy, Raker said, is to address the issue of whether the escalating number of EVs will increase stress on the electric power grid. “EVs make the perfect load for co-ops,” he said. “They can be charged during off-peak hours so they are not detrimental to the grid. Like it or not, EVs are coming. We can’t change the wind so we’ll have to adjust our sails.”

Visit Co-op Connections Plus Take a moment to visit our new online companion to Cooperative Connections. Co-op Connections Plus is a YouTube channel that features a more in-depth treatment of stories appearing in this publication as well as other subjects of interest to rural South Dakotans. Search for “Co-op Connections Plus” and you’ll find videos on human trafficking, support programs for veterans, grain bin safety, the Co-ops Vote campaign and more. Be sure to “like” and “subscribe.” April 2021 | Cooperative Connections



Bright Futures Virtual Career Fair Showcases Rural, Agri-Business Job Opportunities Shayla Ebsen Grow a rewarding and challenging career right here at home. That was the overarching theme of the Bright Futures virtual career fair that was hosted on Feb. 24 by the region’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. South Dakota and western Minnesota high school and post-secondary students, educational advisers, teachers, and parents from across the region attended the free virtual career event that highlighted rural-based careers and explored industries like finance, precision ag and agricultural trades. “Our cooperative family is committed to enhancing the communities we serve,” said Jennifer Gross, education and outreach coordinator at East River Electric Power Cooperative, one of the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives that hosted the event.

Attendees were able to connect with each other, respond to survey questions, post their own comments and photos, and participate in real-time Q&A sessions with presenters. “We hosted this unique event to inspire our youth with local stories emphasizing job opportunities, career development, personal fulfillment and financial advancement. There are hidden career gems throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. This event shined a light on all the ways our rural areas offer a bright future!” The five-hour virtual event featured a blend of keynote speakers and breakout 14

sessions. Attendees were able to connect with each other, respond to survey questions, post their own comments and photos, and participate in real-time Q&A sessions with presenters. South Dakota Representative Dusty Johnson opened the event with a timely discussion about politics, agriculture and our region’s future. Johnson also discussed how decisions made in Washington, D.C., have a big impact on what happens in our region and why it’s important for citizens to remain engaged. A few of the many companies featured during the career fair included Farm Credit Services of America, C&B Operations, Raven Industries, Midwest Vet Services, Salem Vet Clinic and Pipestone System. A panel discussion led by East River Electric Business Development Director Mike Jaspers explored opportunities that are on the horizon for the next generation of farmers, ranchers and rural social media influencers. South Dakota Ag and Rural Leadership Foundation CEO Don Norton provided the event’s closing remarks. “The nature of work in rural America is changing. Growing industries such as precision agriculture, livestock development, food processing, manufacturing, energy, communications and more require different skills, as well as an entrepre-

Cooperative Connections | April 2021

East River Education and Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Gross interviewed Matt Leighton from Titan Machinery. neurial spirit,” said Gross. “This is truly a great time to be starting your career in our region and our goal was to highlight those awesome opportunities for our next generation of leaders.” Recorded videos from the event will be available free for viewing at yourcooppower.com/futures. Additionally, the webpage will include information on internships and job opportunities at many of the employers that were featured in the event.


POWER GRID GLOSSARY Learn More About the Power Grid by Knowing These Terms Billy Gibson billy.gibson@sdrea.coop

Power grids are essential in moving electricity from its source to the places where it’s needed, but they are often overlooked and rarely mentioned - that is until a major storm strikes and the juice ceases to flow. Here is a glossary of terms that will help cooperative consumers learn more about how power moves across long distances to their homes and businesses. BASELOAD POWER PLANT - A large, efficient generating station, typically with a capacity factor of at least 65 percent, that provides dependable power year-round at a low cost. Coal-fired, nuclear, hydro and large natural gas-fired power plants make up most baseload generation, although smaller-scale biomass facilities and geothermal power systems, if properly operated, can also produce baseload power in much smaller quantities. FOSSIL FUELS - Hydrocarbon-based material such as coal, oil, or natural gas found within the top layer of Earth’s crust and used

to produce heat or power; also called conventional fuels. These materials were formed in the ground hundreds of millions of years ago from plant and animal remains. GRID - A network of interconnected high-voltage transmission lines and power generating facilities that allows utilities and other suppliers to share resources on a regional basis. The North American Electric Reliability Corp. oversees reliability of the electric grid covering the U.S. and most of Canada. REGIONAL TRANSMISSION ORGANIZATION - A power transmission system operator that coordinates, controls, and monitors a multi-state electric grid. The transfer of electricity between states is considered interstate commerce, and electric grids spanning multiple states are therefore regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. PEAK DEMAND - The industry’s equivalent of rush-hour traffic, when power costs run the highest. It’s the greatest demand placed on an electric system, measured in kilowatts or megawatts; also, the time of day or season of the year when that demand occurs. PEAK LOAD - The amount of power required by a consumer or utility system during times when electric consumption reaches its highest point; measured in kilowatts or megawatts. POWER MARKETING ADMINISTRATION - A federal agency within the DOE responsible for marketing hydropower, primarily from multiple-purpose water projects operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the International Boundary and Water Commission. RENEWABLES - Sources of energy generation that are naturally replenishable, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro, and hydrokinetic (ocean wave and tidal) power. ROLLING BLACKOUTS - Controlled power outages designed to lessen the threat of a major cascading outage, caused by short supply and high demand for power affecting major transmission systems. Rolling blackouts are scheduled for predetermined sectors of the transmission grid at timed intervals. SOUTHWEST POWER POOL - An entity that manages the electric grid and wholesale power market for the central U.S. As a regional transmission organization, the non-profit corporation is mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices. WESTERN AREA POWER ADMINISTRATION - Markets and delivers hydroelectric power and related services within a 15-state region of the central and western U.S. One of four power marketing administrations within the U.S. DOE having the role to market and transmit electricity from multi-use water projects to retail power distribution companies and public authorities. April 2021 | Cooperative Connections


Note: Please make sure to call ahead to verify the event is still being held.

March 19-20

Sioux Empire Arts & Crafts Show, W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds Expo Building, Sioux Falls, SD 605-332-6000

March 23-24 CANCELED Shen Yun, Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Fine Arts Theatre, Rapid City, SD 605-394-4115

March 25

A Lakota View of the Dead Hills, Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center, Deadwood, SD 605-722-4800

March 27

Hill City Community Easter Egg Hunt, Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, Hill City, SD 605-574-2368

March 27

Lion’s Club Easter Egg Hunt, City Park, Groton, SD 605-846-7607

March 27

SD State High School All-State Band Concert, Mitchell Fine Arts Center, Mitchell, SD

April 1-3

ACL Regional #6 Cornhole Tournament, Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD 605-996-5567

April 3

Spring Fling Fun & Glow Egg Hunt, Rush Mountain Adventure Park, Keystone, SD 605-255-4384

Spring Fling Fun & Glow Egg Hunt, April 3, 2021 April 8

April 23-24

April 9-10

April 30-May 2

The Wildest Banquet Auction in the Midwest, Sioux Falls Arena/Virtual, Sioux Falls, SD 605-339-1203 Forks, Corks and Kegs Food, Wine and Beer Festival, Main Street, Deadwood, SD 605-578-1876

April 9-18

Four Weddings & An Elvis, Mitchell Area Community Theatre, Mitchell, SD 605-996-9137

Junkin’ Market Days, W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds Expo Building, Sioux Falls, SD 605-941-4958 Radium Girls, Pierre Players Community Theatre, Pierre, SD 605-224-7826

May 8

Davis Flea Market & Artisan Fair, Main Street, Davis, SD 605-940-0069

Winefest Renaissance, Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen Area, Aberdeen, SD 605-225-8714

April 20

May 21-23

April 22-May 2

May 21-23

All-State Chorus & Orchestra Concert, Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, Sioux Falls, SD Beauty and the Beast, Sioux Empire Community Theatre, Sioux Falls, SD 605-367-6000

Frühlingsfest & Spring Market, Main Street, Rapid City, SD 605-716-7979

June 5-6

18th Annual Wessington Springs Foothills Rodeo, Wessington Springs Rodeo Grounds, Wessington Springs, SD 605-770-5720

May 15

Red Dirt Music Festival featuring Casey Donahew, Ian Munsick and Randy Burghardt Deadwood Mountain Grand, Deadwood, SD 605-559-0386

April 17

May 22

Annual Sound of Silence Tesla Rally, Downtown, Custer, SD 605-673-2244 State Parks Open House and Free Fishing Weekend, All State Parks and Recreation Areas, SD 605-773-3391

To have your event listed on this page, send complete information, including date, event, place and contact to your local electric cooperative. Include your name, address and daytime telephone number. Information must be submitted at least eight weeks prior to your event. Please call ahead to confirm date, time and location of event.

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